Washington quiet capital of sustainable design
Photo courtesy of Inhabitat
The nation’s capital long has been the center of the green building movement. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), founded in 1993, is headquartered there, as is the American Institute of Architects, whose Committee on the Environment (COTE), which launched in 1990, is the country’s oldest program promoting sustainable design, reports the Huffington Post.
In January, the USGBC released its annual ranking of states with the most buildings certified through its LEED rating system, and once again Washington, D.C., came out on top. The city isn’t formally ranked, because technically it’s a federal district, not a state, but last year the volume of certified green buildings per capita was nearly eight times that of the top state, Massachusetts, and more than 11 times the average for the 10 leading states. The number of projects in DC (120) far exceeds some other states and rivals the median for all states (143), and the number of total projects registered reportedly is higher than any other city.
Washington also routinely leads the nation for the most structures certified under ENERGY STAR, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s energy-efficient buildings program. In 2016, the District had 30 percent more ENERGY STAR buildings than its closest competitor and more total square footage certified than even the largest cities, including New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. And the District also is the U.S. city with the largest percentage of green power purchases, due to an ambitious wind power plan, for which the EPA gave the city its Green Power Leadership Award in 2015.
What accounts for DC’s dramatic progress? In 2006, Washington became the first city in the nation to pass a law mandating LEED certification for both public and private buildings, and its Green Construction Codes, fully adopted in 2014, are considered a national model.
Around the world, cities are outpacing national governments in climate action, and arguably the District is leading the way in the U.S., especially with its buildings. Since the built environment accounts for nearly half of all energy and emissions in the U.S., it is an essential arena to combat climate change. Yet, while many rankings have listed Washington among the “greenest cities,” it has never reached No. 1. Maybe D.C. might receive the recognition it deserves as the capital of sustainable design.
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